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The Better Half: Leftover Lemons: Pro Tips for a Zero Waste Kitchen

Looking for practical tips on how to prevent lemons from going bad? Join us on a zesty journey as we explore 6 sustainable and practical ways to avoid leftover lemons and food waste at home.  But first…

Why Do Lemons Go Bad?

You bring home a bunch of bright yellow lemons with a fresh, zingy scent. But a few days after, they either go squishy and moldy or dry out. Sounds familiar? We’ve all been there. The truth is, the higher the temperature and humidity, the faster the lemons go bad. 

Want to make most of the king of the citruses without resorting to plastic wrap or ziploc bags? Here are our favorite methods.

Cut of water on counter with lemons and one lime half in Food Huggers

1. Refrigerate Your Leftover Lemons

Yes – the most obvious way to store your lemons is the best one!

While you can keep them at room temperature for about a week before they start to dehydrate, refrigerating lemons will help you extend their shelf life

Pro tip: keep them in a large glass jar with a lid submerged in cold water to keep them fresh for up to 4 weeks.

Jar filled with lemons covered with Food Hugger Lid in Fridge door

2. Freeze Them

Can you freeze leftover lemons? You bet! Buying them in bulk when they’re on sale and freezing them for later is a great way to always have some fresh citrusy goodness on hand. Just pop them whole in a freezer and defrost at room temperature until soft. 

Slicing them into individual slices or wedges and freezing them in Hugger Bags is one of the best plastic wrap alternatives. Take as many as you need and add them to your water, iced tea or a cocktail for some extra zing on a hot summer day.

3. Get More Juice Out of Your Lemons

Lemon juice is a refreshing, convenient and low-calorie source of vitamin C. It’s also great as a natural cleaner and for preventing browning of the fruits and veggies.

To get the most juice out of a lemon, you can:

1. Freeze your lemons before squeezing them

Freezing doesn’t just preserve lemons. It also breaks down the internal membranes, making it easier to extract every last drop of juice.

2. Roll ‘em around

Another way to get all the juices going before even cutting your lemon. Place it on a firm surface – like a countertop – press and roll it around back and forth by adding pressure.

3. Microwave them

10-20 seconds in a microwave (or until warm) will also break down the membranes and help release juice. When done, cool the lemon off and juice as you would normally. Be careful not to overdo it – you don’t want to cook it because high heat and prolonged cooking destroy vitamin C.

Easiest way to save lemon juice?  Pour it into an ice cube tray and freeze. Add the lemon juice cubes to enhance your beverages – like water, iced tea and cocktails –  or quickly defrost them anytime a recipe calls for fresh lemon juice.

4. Don’t Waste the Zest

Lemon zest is used in a variety of desserts and savory dishes – think cheesecake, lemon herb roasted chicken and lemon pound cake.

Zesting your lemons is easy and you can do it 2 ways:

  1. Zest your frozen lemons: grate them directly to the dish (no need to defrost).
  2. Freeze the zest only – holds up to 3 months and keeps all the flavor or aroma. 

Lemons on table with lemon zest in small bowl

5. Make Preserved Lemons

Salty, tangy and packed with umami – preserved lemon will elevate your marinades, dressings and meat dishes and make your guests scramble for seconds.

No need to be intimidated – making them is easier than you might think.

We love this step-by-step recipe by Serious Eats for umami-packed lemony goodness. Try it out and let us know what you think.

6. Use Them in Cooking

Do you have a bunch of ripe leftover lemons and no space in your fridge and freezer?

Make yourself a fresh homemade lemonade and let’s get cooking!

Here are some of our favorite ways to use those lemons up:

1. Lemon marmalade

Sweet, tart, refreshing and slightly bitter (in a good way) – lemon marmalade is perfect on a toast, ice cream or as a pastry filling. 

Packed in a cute tiny jar with a thoughtful handwritten note, it makes a perfect gift.
We’re slightly obsessed over this BBC Good Food recipe.

2. Lemon salt

Lemon and salt are a perfect combo – and not just for doing tequila shots. Turns out this duo increases saliva – literally making the food and drink more delicious.

While quality lemon salt can be expensive, your homemade version doesn’t have to be. All you have to do is zest your lemons with a citrus zester, combine it with sea salt and store in a container, jar or glass. Cover it with one of our most popular eco friendly kitchen toolsFood Huggers – and you got yourself a bold citrusy spice perfect on fish, steak or margaritas. 

3. Lemon curd

This old-fashioned dessert is decadently sweet, tart and velvety. Plus, it keeps well in the fridge for up to a month or can be frozen for up to a year. If you’re looking for a no-fuss recipe that delivers, this 5-ingredient lemon curd recipe by Sally’s Baking Addiction is what you need.
Use it as a tart or pastry filling, pancake or toast topping, or enjoy by the spoonful straight from the jar.

Full lemons and half lemons from a birds eye view

7. Ultimate Lemon Life Hacks

Thanks to the antibacterial citric acid and characteristic fragrance molecules, lemons are an excellent natural and eco-friendly cleaner and deodorizer.

Use your leftover lemons to banish unwanted smells in the fridge, garbage disposal and litter box. Pro tip: boiling lemon slices in water with rosemary will give your home a fresh, clean and pleasant scent.

Lemons are also a great alternative to aggressive chemical stain removers.

Use them to remove a stubborn stain from your favorite T-shirt, plastic or ceramic – you can even mix it with salt to remove the rust stains.

Another thing we love about lemon is that it’s an all-natural degreaser. Cut the lemon in half or fill the spray bottle with its juice and use it on greasy surfaces – like dishes, stovetops, tiles, cutting boards and cheese graters.

Final Thoughts

We hope you found these 6 practical tips on preventing leftover lemons from going bad and reducing food waste at home useful.

For a small, women owned and B Corp certified business like ours, it would mean a lot if you shared this article with your family and friends.

We’d also love to connect with you on Facebook, Instagram or Youtube where we share practical tips for creating a zero waste kitchen and sustainable swaps.

Did we forget something? Let us know of your zero waste lemon hacks.

half a lemon and half a tomato on Silicone Food Savers Food Huggers

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